The Chicago Cubs have juggled their pitching rotation for upcoming games, flip-flopping lefty Jon Lester and right-hander Jake Arrieta.
After an off-day Thursday, the Cubs open a weekend series at Cincinnati. Lester will open the series Friday night with Arrieta going Saturday. Originally, Arrieta was scheduled for Friday and Lester for Saturday.
The switch will enable Lester to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates next Wednesday and for Arrieta to pitch in Boston the following weekend. The Pirates are a more favorable matchup for a left-handed pitcher.
"The off-days have permitted it," said manager Joe Maddon. "That's the whole thing. We've had so many off-days early on. We did it originally, and it played out pretty well when we did the Jake-Jon thing early. The teams we put them up against, we felt better about.
"Moving it forward again, another off-day permits it. Then we get back to where we had started from. If you don't have the off-days, you can't do it. And there is still the threat of rain over the next couple of days, even in Cincinnati. So things can be changed once again. We don't know that. Right now, you're trying to make your best guesses."
Decision time coming:
Infielder Tommy La Stella will be eligible to come off the bereavement list in time for Friday's series opener against the Reds. The Cubs will have a roster move to make.
When reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came off the bereavement list on April 17, La Stella went on. Edwards was replaced on April 14 by reliever Brian Duensing, who was activated off the disabled list.
If the Cubs keep eight relief pitchers -- something that seems likely -- they'll likely have to decide whether to keep La Stella or backup outfielder Matt Szczur (who started Wednesday).
La Stella has minor-league options remaining. Szczur does not.
"It is a tough decision," Joe Maddon said. "It's a really difficult decision. You're trying to weigh the potentiality of losing a player you'd like to keep or exercising the rules that are in place and optioning a guy out and keeping the other guy. What do you think is necessary right now and why? Back to: What is your organizational concepts and philosophies? And how do you want to treat this moment."
Maddon added he has discussed the issue with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer and that a decision on how many relievers to keep has not been made.